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Tens of thousands beyond help of aid agencies, hospitals running out of supplies


New York, June 27, 2000 - The international aid agency Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today expressed its extreme concern about the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Ambon, Maluku Province, Indonesia. Tens of thousands of displaced people are currently beyond the reach of humanitarian aid agencies. Local medical facilities are under great strain and running out of essential supplies like drugs and sterile bags for blood transfusions.

For several months now, violence on the island and in the city of Ambon has been increasing. Clashes between Muslim and Christian militias as well as with Indonesian forces are a daily reality. Last week the conflict escalated and in the past five days (June 21st-26th) there have been 58 deaths and 329 casualties, mostly young males wounded by bullets. There are also an unknown number of casualties not referred to the hospitals.

Access to camps of internally displaced people is impossible because of ongoing insecurity, leaving thousands of families without relief support. The situation is expected to worsen with the arrival of more displaced families expelled during the clashes. Last month there were already 34,000 displaced persons sheltered in Ambon in 81 camps supported by MSF. The supply of drinking water to several camps has been stopped since Wednesday, after one MSF office and two MSF-rented water trucks were set ablaze during attacks on the Tantui area, Ambon City. MSF has been forced to temporarily halt nearly all humanitarian activities in both Muslim and Christian areas, fearing for the safety of its staff because of numerous snipers and confrontations with armed groups.

In close collaboration with the health authorities, the MSF team has been supporting the main hospitals of the city by supplying emergency stocks and reinforcing the medical staff. Two of the MSF-supported ambulances are operating an emergency medical referral system, one located in the Muslim sector and one in the Christian. This has helped to maintain a minimum of health services accessible to the local population from both communities. However, within days these supplies will be depleted, and it will be impossible to re-supply unless access to the main drug warehouse of the city can be secured. Of grave concern is the lack of sterile bags for life-saving blood transfusions, which can only be supplied from outside the province.

MSF is very worried about further deterioration of the humanitarian situation and the increasing difficulties in reaching populations throughout the entire province of Maluku. Communities in North Maluku are also suffering similar shortages due to severe clashes that have led to hundreds of deaths and wounded over the last few months. -- continued --

MSF is calling upon all parties in the conflict and local community leaders to arrange for immediate access to the displaced population and respect for basic medical emergency services. Humanitarian corridors should be opened as soon as possible to provide essential relief services to the population affected by the present escalating conflict.